For weeks, I had been begging my Boilers to surprise me...and if you read my prediction, you could probably feel the down-in-the-crapper feel of it. Following the Minny game, I was pretty sure surprises were out of the question. The miscues had become so predictable that J and I felt like Nostrodamus as we texted one-another correctly guessing how our Boilers would sink the ship. This week was different. J was away from the TV for much of the game and I tried to give updates...at one point in the third he asked "so, when's 'it' coming". I told him I didn't feel that it was...and it didn't- the good guys held on and did the improbable...And I was surprised...gleefully shocked actually. But, it was an interesting ride getting to the end of this one.
The Orange Envelope
My Dad came across a few tickets and asked me if I wanted to go to the game. I of course said I'd love to go, but wasn't all-positive as I looked ahead. When he dropped off the tickets, there weren't two in the envelope, there were four and a parking pass- sweet. But, as I quickly found out, not a lot of people wanted to go to this one.
I swear I called 15 friends...but could only find one taker...I felt like I was selling insurance. A pal of mine who was my old neighbor could go...and my sister-in-law decided to go too. But I still had one. I refused to sell it to a scalper because I didn't want another Bucknut in the stands. But finally, one of my brother-in-laws recent Purdue grad friends took the freebie.
On the way into the stadium, we saw Gene Keady heading toward the RA box entrance. I hadn't seen the coach in person for a while...hair was still jet black, but the ole coach is showing his age; but it was nice seeing him.
Got to our seats in Section 127, row 47. Solid seats. The stadium, at least on that side seemed pretty devoid of energy- from Purdue fans or Buckey fans. But, I was concerned because we were in an area littered with older alums. Boilerdowd+Older Alums usually= bad things...but I decided not to move to one of the many empties toward the end of the stadium.
Purdue came out and surprisingly moved the ball well, until they got close to the goal line...then the OSU defense would tighten up. At the same time, the Pryor led Bucks looked pretty inept. He made poor decision after poor decision and seemed rattled by Purdue's pressure, specifically Kerrigan's. 94 was a bad mo fo today...but really, so was the entire front four. Those guys played macho football. And as the Landholm-coached unit shifted repeatedly, not only would Pryor get jumpy, but also, his O-Line struggled too as they jumped out of their three-point stances in sheer fright!
Sarcastic comments like that were blurted out by me over and over. Things like, "You've never seen a defense like this before, 2". I was having a ton of fun watching this well-paid blue chip look completely flappable and human. aOSU fans call this guy LeBron in cleats. I'm pretty sure Bron could have led the Buckeye's offense in a similar fashion today.
If you're like me, you don't like most Ohio State fans. Don't get me wrong, one of my best friends graduated from the school...but generally, the fans are clowns. Real close to us, a tool in a Troy Smith jersey cheered like a Village Person everytime anything good happened...and turned around to the rest of the crowd in a showy and annoying way. He also wore rose-colored tortoise-shell glasses and the macho-looking buckey & shiny red Christmas ornament necklace. After Wiggs crushed the 55-yarder and put Purdue in the lead, he lost some of his moxy...early in the second-half, this jackhole completely disappeared and never reappeared, sadly. I didn't get to thank him for visiting.
At the half, I went under the stands to the concourse to connect with my brother-in-law. I got to see Joey Elliott's brother. How was I sure it was him? Well, take Joey, multiply him by 2 and you get his brother. He's a mammoth version of his younger brother with a handlebar mustache that leads directly to sideburns. His presence reminded me not to ever make fun of 14 again.
Then I got to see Mike Neal's Dad. Holy Crap. This guy's arms are as big as my legs. Judging from the genetics of Elliott and Neal, I'd say my son's chances of playing for our Boilers in 15 years are pretty slim.
Back to the Action
The third quarter begins and Purdue's offense begins to click. Keith Smith got involved...in a big way. In doing so, he tied a Purdue record by receiving for over 100 yards in four-straight games. This guy is a bad dude. Remember the times when tiny Purdue wide receivers couldn't handle aOSU's bump man? Yeah, like every year for the past 12? Me too. Not today- Smith, Valentin, Carlos, Smith and others had no problem with the physical game of the Buckeyes. In fact, Valentin and Smith both easily-shed the first Buckey tackler on more than one occasion.
Ohio State's defensive linemen gushed about Purdue's physical offense after the game saying Purdue's line were ready for the game...and they called Elliott the best QB they had faced this season. Elliott was sharp and made a lot of good decisions- he even ran the ball a few times- still not enough, in my opinion, but as the coverage stayed w/ Purdue's receivers and the pocket collapsed, he tucked it a couple times.
But as Purdue poured it on, and distanced themselves from the Vest's team, things weren't peaceful in sec. 127.
An older guy sitting in front of me turns around and says, "Shutup, you're hurting my wife's ears." I said, "pardon?" He said, "Shutup!" Again. "Just be quiet for the rest of the game." I didn't like this too much and was sick of hearing this from fellow Purdue grads...regardless of age.
So, I stepped I walked a couple of steps to make sure he could hear me. I said, "I'm sorry about your wife's ears. I won't yell in her direction. But I won't be quiet...I'm going to get louder as this game goes on, I can assure you that." He said it again to me. The guy behind me said, "If you don't want to hear it, you should leave...you should shut up!" I loved that- a guy I'd never met getting my back, and really, arguing on behalf of the football team.
I got back in place, and proceeded to yell...actually a bit louder at that time.
As we all got behind Purdue, the defense gave up a score...but then, something funny happened. The coaches seemed to learn. They made the adjustments...blitzed again, put pressure on Pryor...and eventually, sealed the victory.
The Fun Part
Me and my pals headed down toward the field where the aisle was open at the end. Right before we were about to go on the field, the usher chained it off. I took three steps to the right, jumped the railing and joined the celebration. The first player I noticed on the field was Chris Carlino. He's a fellow Fishers, IN guy...so I went over to him, and yelled- "Chris, Fishers, Represent!" He replied, "F*CK Yeah!"
Everyone was in a good mood down there. I got to talk to Josh Johnson who, I'm pretty sure thought I was someone else. I yelled, "Josh! This is just the beginning!" He came over, put his arm around me and said, "It's gonna be fun!"
Then I saw Coach Hope...drenched from the Gatorade container bath. He was smiling like a school kid and didn't seem in a hurry to leave the field. In spite of his bristly demeanor, he seemed to love high-fiving and playfully bumping into fans. I accidentally elbowed him in the ribs as he raised his hands triumphantly...but he's a tough guy and didn't seem too bothered.
A few weeks ago, he called the loss to UND the most exciting game of his career...I'm pretty sure he's got a new favorite. Hope gushed about the students after the game and the greater Purdue family...I loved hearing it.
I lastly got to walk off the field with Antwon Higgs. I told him, "This is why you came here..." He said, "hell yeah..." I then said, "The best thing, is you've got 4 years to keep doing it!" He then yelled, "HELL YEAH!"
Man, it was great being down there, and there's no better way to leave a field than through the field gate surrounded by thousands of smiling fellow Boilers.
And this was a big recruiting day too...Tons of talented potential Boilers had their first taste of Ross Ade and Purdue University. Let's hope one or two of these guys make their decision in the very near future to come join in what Coach Hope is building.
So what's this game mean? A turning point? A defining win for the Seniors? A fluke? No one can answer that yet. But, one thing we do know is that this team is still fighting and doesn't seem ready to give up on the season just yet. Brandon King says he's still shooting for a 7-win season, but it gets real difficult here in two weeks...and prior to that, Purdue has a chance to fall back into the bad habit of losing to teams they shouldn't as a hapless Illinois team comes calling.
Here's to a decisive, unsurprising victory in 6 days.
(Thanks to Jason for the video that captures the post-game jubilation)